Illustration by Lydia O'Neal

Illustration by Lydia O’Neal

As college students at an elite university, we are undoubtedly busy with the many things that need to be done before tomorrow. We are overwhelmingly focused on these things that we have to do, professors we have to meet with, classes we have to attend and meetings we have to get to.

With all of this, it is quite simple to live through our days in autopilot; we wake up, get ready for the day, grab breakfast, go to class, attend a club meeting, do homework, go to sleep and repeat. In this daily routine we are too stuck inside of our heads and only concerned with the end to our current path. Our minds are too often set on our destination and where we are going. Of course it is important to have direction, but it is also important not to forget what’s in-between and not to discount the things that are outside of our destination. It seems that because of the other things we have to worry about, we are lacking engagement with the world around us and not thinking twice about it.

The world is filled with things that should fascinate us, offering us nature, potential personal relationships and all of humankind’s creations, such as art, architecture and music. Emory’s campus is no exception, with beautiful greenery, flowering shrubbery, overzealous squirrels, impressive architecture (aside from White Hall, of course) and so many people with intriguing backgrounds and spectacular goals. Yet every day many of us overlook this.

We must stop disregarding the world and people around us just because we are on our own path of getting things done. It is important to be aware, appreciative and inquisitive about everything around us instead of blinding ourselves to it all. In German philosopher Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time, he addresses the importance of reflecting upon the world around us and how we connect with it in order to determine what it means to “be.” His philosophy revolves around the idea of “being there” or “being in a world” and he believes that we need to be concerned with the things around us and their original nature. He emphasizes that being aware of the environment around us and being able to think deeper about it and what it holds for us allows us to better consider our own place in the world.

Walking around every day we accept our observations as they are, turn away, and give no second thought about them. We do not truly observe the objects we come across and do not think about the detail of the trees or the architecture or whatever other observations we may be making. There’s beauty in analysis of the things around us, the evaluation of them, considering how they got there and what their place in the world is. It is even as simple as saying, “I like this,” or, “I don’t like this,” and asking ourselves why that is, or considering what makes something beautiful to us and what exhibits good or bad art. This allows us to connect with our world in a large way as we are coming out of our own heads and putting thought into what is outside of what we are doing immediately or where we are going.

A huge part of our world where we are not engaged well enough is in our interactions with other people, especially when meeting new people. It is astounding to me how many times I have had a conversation with someone one day only to walk past them at a later date and see them have no memory of our previous interaction. Often we only put half of the effort we should into our conversations, not enough for our brains to actually register the event. According to an article by The Guardian, it takes 10 seconds of devoted brain power to remember a person’s name. That being said, we very often have trouble remembering the names of others the first time. This of course might happen as a result of some of us just having bad memories, but maybe this just goes to show that we are not working hard enough to really try and connect with both the people we are talking to and the words they are saying. We convince ourselves that we are so busy that we don’t even want to spend 10 seconds attempting to remember someone’s name.

Our engagement is lacking with others mainly because conversations are often had in the shadow of so many other distractions. It is too common to ask a question, and as the other is responding, turn to our phone and check whatever notifications are begging to be checked. Often we listen to a person, and we do not absorb any of the information, and many other times we are not even listening at all. Our interactions with others deserve more than half engagement, because we are missing out on the opportunity to really get to know some amazing people. It’s very enjoyable to actually become invested in getting to know a person and what they have to offer the world as opposed to having superficial conversations just to pass the time and forgetting everything that was talked about later on.

Taking time to observe the world, to think about it and connect with it is almost a necessity and nothing other than a rewarding experience from which we can only benefit. We learn by observing, by interacting and by experiencing. The work that we do for our classes and the time that we put into activities is certainly important, but it distracts us from the rest of the world. We must take the time to be more conscious of everything and everyone we encounter and are surrounded by, because we are really missing out when we let it all pass us by.

Tyler Teresi is a College freshman from Las Vegas, Nevada.