NIL

Personal Statement

Personal StatementI have sworn on my biology textbook instead of the Bible since my sophomore year because I have an obsession with truth. After reading The Sound and the Fury a month ago I thought that I had the truth of mankind in terms of the universe figured out: that the Earth, being small and temporary, and humans, being smaller and more temporary, were inconsequential. I had no empirical evidence to back up my belief, but for once I felt that I didn’t need any. Life as a meaningless nanosecond made more sense than any other explanation that I had heard. I decided that it is just the pretension of the human race to believe that our actions hold such great importance. The following weekend those bleak thoughts still ran through my somber yet self-righteous mind, so I went for a walk on the beach to think things through. Towards the far end of the shore I saw yellow caution tape enclosing what appeared to be a large brown sausage. Curiosity quickened my pace until the sausage transformed into the first monk seal that I had ever seen. I was overcome by the power that lay dormant in its beautiful sleeping body, and as I observed from a respectful distance, I noticed some odd markings near the seal’s tail. When I got closer I was appalled to read the word ‘NIL’ scarred into the skin of the peaceful creature. The relevance of the word shocked me, and a torrent of improbable situations inundated my thoughts. At first I imagined a nihilistic marine biologist, but then considered a purposeless drunk, or even a disillusioned youth carving my once-perceived truth of the universe into the side of the innocent seal. I was sickened by the prospect of anyone committing such an act, because suddenly, the seal mattered. Life mattered, and so did respect for peace and beauty and compassion, and all of the other values that stop people from doing harm. I realized that truth is important, but it is also inadequate.The insignificance of life is not an excuse for cruelty. Life may be nothingness, but we are all together in the void and must therefore seek the greater values of compassion, joy, justice, and love in order to make living worth the effort. After reading Faulkner’s Nobel Prize Speech recently, I realized that he sought the power and the glory even when surrounded by sound and fury. Though I acknowledge that I cannot leave my mark on the universe, I find purpose in the fact that I can leave a somewhat lasting imprint on the people and the world around me. The concept of nothingness puts my life into perspective, but it doesn’t urge me to destruction because I have now realized that on the hierarchy of importance, so many values rank above truth. I later felt sheepish relief when I discovered that my ‘NIL’ was probably N1L, a marker for a Canadian study on monk seals, but my moment of clarity was not shaken. If anything, it was reinforced, for it was just another instance of truth’s subordinance to compassion. If I had known the truth of N1L all along, I might never have come to such a deep personal conclusion from that experience. Truth cannot stand alone as the foundation of a substantial life, so I have accepted nothingness as a side note and now seek those greater values as a means towards morality and purpose.

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