CT Journal: Take an idea or topic from open forum and develop it in this manner: state the idea, elaborate on the idea, exemplify the idea, and illustrate the idea by means of an analogy.

Erin C.

I think that true happiness can only be achieved through selflessness and genuine concern for others. I often misinterpret triumph such as getting good grades or receiving many presents on my birthday as happiness, but I now that I seriously consider it, I realize that it cannot be so. Real happiness comes from doing nice things for others, not only thinking of myself. Instead of being self-centered, by behaving thoughtfully towards other people, I am actually doing myself a service, because those other people will treat me kindly in return.

For example, the other day, I had twenty dollars with which I was planning to buy a new shirt for myself. I really liked the shirt of them, and it was on sale. The sale was a one-time-only offer, so I was looking forward to going shopping. That afternoon, a friend came up to me and asked if they could borrow twenty bucks to get their mother a birthday gift. They were pretty embarrassed and depressed that they had forgotten to save money for this occasion, and practically got down on their knees to beg me for a loan. I knew that if I lent them the money I wouldn't be able to buy the shirt that I really wanted, but I also knew how terrible my friend would feel if they were unable to give their mom a birthday present.

I gave them the money, at first slightly disappointed that I would miss out on the shirt, but then I began to feel . . . well, happy. I discovered much more gratification in lending my friend the money than keeping it to buy myself something not very important. Although I didn't get the new shirt I had wanted so badly, it didn't matter. I had survived fourteen years of my life without it, so it wasn't as if I wouldn't be able to go on with my life if I didn't get the shirt. I found out that by putting my friend before myself, I felt like a benevolent and giving person, which was a very satisfactory feeling, and I strengthened a friendship. I learned that generosity is so much more rewarding than selfishness, because I get a bigger feeling of satisfaction. The kind of happiness I could have gotten by buying a new shirt that I liked would be temporary, and somehow false. It would be an almost greedy kind of happiness, the way a child who adores candy probably feels after a long night of trick-or-treating.

To me, happiness that only benefits oneself isn't real. The happiness I experienced when I sacrificed my opportunity to purchase an article of clothing in order to provide my friend with cash for their mother's birthday gift was genuine because it involved giving to someone other than myself. Like the act of giving, many times real happiness is gained form intangibles rather than physical objects such as clothes. There is a famous saying that people use to describe a present that in itself isn't very large, expensive, or ample: "It doesn't matter because it's the thought that counts." In other words, the present is just a present. It may not have much worth or importance, but it represents something more valuable. Just the fact that someone cared enough to give another person a gift should grant anyone true happiness.

I think that genuine happiness is like a boomerang. The more times you use it, the more times it returns. If you never throw your boomerang because you don't want to take the risk of losing it or breaking it, obviously it won't be able to come back because you haven't cast it. Also, if you don't put much force into your throw, the boomerang won't return either. It will simply fall a few feet away from you and drop onto the ground. To get the greatest results from your boomerang, you have to throw it with enthusiastic energy, and without restraint. To give freely is to ultimately receive greatly. And as with throwing a boomerang, the happiness comes not from having something, but from giving something.

Tara J.

The idea which interested me most during today's open forum was the question as to why outer appearance is so important to people. The person who posed this question to our class is apparently assuming that appearance is valued in society. I think that this was assumed because the general notion of society is that a first impression is based completely on physical looks, for it is from what one sees (in this instance, the individual being observed) that one can make assumptions and/or inferences.

Another issue at hand here is that generally speaking, both males and females attempt to impress members of the opposite (or in some cases, the same) gender by dressing a certain way or looking a certain way in clothing. One of the assumptions that many girls have today is that males are sexually driven and that wearing short skirts or extremely fitted clothing will attract these males. This is a potential explanation for why girls traditionally spend such an extensive period of time preparing themselves physically for a day at school, for instance, "getting ready in the morning." However, it is important to recognize that males too may often take a long time getting ready, for they want to look their best to impress, so to speak. Something also important to recognize is that typically, both males and females feel that they are competing with others in order to capture the attention and/or admiration of a member of the opposite sex. Hence, it is common for people to feel the need to out-do each other in terms of appearance; the assumption here is that to look better is to get further in the race to that desired individual. A good analogy here would be the nature of peacocks: peacocks spread their feathers in order to attract their mates. This is an expression of their unique beauty as well as their desire to engage in sexual contact.

What we now must examine is what significance "looking one's best" has in this issue of the value of appearance. Looking one's best perhaps implies that one has put a great effort into dressing and grooming themselves. Color, material, and size choice are all elements commonly incorporated into the complex process (or what can be made complex, as shown here) of selecting clothing for oneself. I also think that looking one's best implies that as many imperfections as possible have been concealed via makeup, for example. Makeup sales are currently booming due to this notion that one must look his or her best when in the public eye, or even in the privacy of their own home.

This leads me to believe that people wish to boost their self esteem by being what they perceive to be beautiful, even if this beauty is only somewhat natural. One of the potential underlying issues here then is that people who need to use their looks to feel better about themselves are insecure about something else. This something else is therefore psychological or dealing with personality. "Good looks" can be used to disguise personality. For instance, if while attending school, a girl is dressed in a sweatshirt and jeans, it could logically be assumed that she is a conservative individual. Suppose this modest look is being used by this girl at school in order to hide the fact that deep down inside, she is a goth; and perhaps knowing this about herself is embarrassing. Overtime, society has applied certain pressures on all individuals regarding what is visually acceptable and what is not and furthermore, what dress is a part of the norm and what dress is not. In this sense, society resists diversity and this girl, used in the example, is most likely too fearful of rejection by those who surround her to dress as a typical goth normally would. This proves the theory that form doesn't always follow function.

One of the most significant issues incorporated into the fact that society places emphasis on physical appearance is outward appearance vs. outer being, both of which have been explored in this piece. The importance of appearance is like a group of white diamonds in a jewelry store, all trying to attract the buyer's attention, to outshine each other. Each of these diamonds is unique because of their imperfections, yet they remain in competition with each other. This leads me to think of the nursery song:

Twinkle twinkle little star,
How I wonder what you are
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the sky.

Sometimes outer appearance does not apply to what lies beneath, in the depths of a person or thing. In a perfect world, people would not judge another by their physical looks alone, but learn to think deeper into the character of that person which when understood, can make their true beauty come to life for the very first time.