On Oct. 20, 2011, after (not so) careful consideration and (little to no) planning, my roommate and I decided to commit entirely to our friendship and adopt two adorable, healthy Syrian hamsters. (Well, one was healthy, and one was incredibly fat.) They were named Gov’na, (pronounced “Governor,” but as if a British person is pronouncing it,) and Emilio (as in “Emilio Estevez! The ‘Mighty Ducks’ Guy!”).
We loved these hamsters with all our hearts. We stayed up late watching them fight over their little wheel and try to chew their way out of their tiny jail-I-mean-cage. We worried whether they would get teased by their little hamster classmates once they started hamster school. (Not for having two multi-racial fathers, but for having two multi-racial fathers that gave them incredibly ridiculous names.)
But on winter quarter’s eve, tragedy struck. (Disclaimer: if you are squeamish, you should probably skip to the next paragraph. You also probably shouldn’t text me asking for a picture.) I awoke to find that Emilio, to put it bluntly, had eaten Gov’na’s head. I don’t know if it was in self-defense or for survival or some alpha-hamster complex, but what I do know is that Mr. PetSmart Guy, who promised us they would be fine in a cage together, was bloody wrong. Which brings us to this week’s Do’s and Doo-Doo’s…
DO: Attend the campus-wide memorial for Gov’na this Monday Night at Yost. Please wear all black. (I don’t know if memorial gifts are a thing, but they will be gladly accepted.)
DOO-DOO: Consume the people around you.
Without drawing too many parallels to human nature out of a story about hamsters, I think there is an element of truth here. We all act harshly and destructively toward others out of our own pride, fear, jealousy, comfort and desire for personal gain. (Or at least I think we all do. Right? Shoot, I hope it’s not just me.)
And a lot of times, it’s not even intentional. There are so many times I’ve been impatient and short with people (“short” referring to temper) because I want to do things my way. I’ve let relationships fizzle out because I don’t want to apologize or admit that I’m wrong. And I’ve given the cold shoulder to people because I feel too busy and overwhelmed to give some of my time away. I honestly try my best to love the people around me, but far too often and far too easily, the concept of “me” and “my needs” gets overinflated and consumes the needs of the people around me. (I naively described this as “swallowing the people around me” until someone wisely criticized my word choice.)
I’m writing a short film right now where the main character wakes up every day in a different person’s life. He/she (I’m not sure even what to call them) literally lives life day-to-day — a new life each day. Nothing lasts — consequences or rewards. The character initially feels invincible and lives selfishly; they recklessly spend money that is not theirs in the first place. They act inconsiderately, knowing that the consequences won’t last past the day.
The turning point comes when the character grows unhappy because none of these immediate joys from selfish behavior carries from day to day. Further, they wake up one day in the life of a person that has been negatively affected by one of their past life’s irresponsible behaviors. The character suddenly realizes that their actions have lasting consequences on others. They begin to strive for the betterment and happiness of others, though with the selfish aim of bettering their future position, not knowing who they will be the next day. Ultimately, the character discovers that they receive the most lasting joy from positively impacting the permanent lives of those around them. End scene.
It requires some imagination, but it is the best way for me to communicate the lesson that I’ve learned and continue to keep learning (because I continually forget.) The more we focus on the happiness and betterment of others and the less we focus on our own situation, the happier we will be. I don’t have the philosophical arguments or sociological statistics for why this works. (If someone does, send them my way!) But I do know that on the lucky days and lucky moments when I can push my joy and my truth and my fulfillment aside, I enter into joy, truth and fulfillment that is so much bigger than me.
If you count slightly cannibalistic hamsters amongst your turn-ons, then email Chase forthwith (RIP Gov’na) at ninjaish “at” stanford “dot” edu.