Avery M.'s Philosophical Ponderings
BY N. RAZBAN '23
Inspiration strikes at the strangest of moments. Someontimes, one finds it lurking in the fog of a dreamy forest. Or, perhaps, in the hustle and bustle of a busy street corner. Or even on the top of a mountain, where the wind howls with a fervency that rivals an angsty internal storm. For Avery Mathews and I, both old, wizened seniors, inspiration struck within tiny, folded-up Post-it Notes that held our thoughts on life, the universe, and, you know, the deep stuff. And here we are: transferring our Post-it ponderings to newspaper ponderings. So, here’s Avery and her thoughts on life, and other stuff. Enjoy, my little philosophers.
1. Escaping “side-character syndrome”
As a member of ABRHS’s band, Avery can’t help but see the world through music. She notes that our rotating schedule bears an uncanny resemblance to a scale—ABCDEF → GABCDE—and she loves it. Avery believes “that it’s good for our minds to get variety, and seeing different people at lunch brings spice to our life.” The rotating schedule avoids monotony, but, what should one do if unable to escape this dullness?
Avery recommends “doing something different for yourself every day and adding variety to the simple things.” This could mean changing the lighting in your room, taking an unfamiliar route home, or listening to new music. Avery also suggests the Spotify playlist “my life is a movie” because “you should feel like the main character.” When listening to music, she imagines where it would fit in her life, creating a whole new avenue for her to reminisce about the good ol’ days. She reminds us to take these moments because “we are not human-doings, we are human-beings. Allow yourself to just be.”
2. Overcoming challenges
What do we do if a problem seems unsolvable? Avery’s response? A good ol’ quote from a good ol’ book. Avery shares a quote from Matt Haig’s The Comfort Book: “In order to get over a problem, it helps to look at it. You can’t climb a mountain if you pretend it isn't there.” Don’t ignore the problem in hopes it goes away; instead, think, “it will get done eventually.” This mindset allows you to put the pressure of having to finish everything immediately and frames the work into something more feasible.
3. What percent of our lives do we control?
Diverging from general advice to unanswered questions, Avery ponders the age-old topic of control. What percent of our lives do we truly control? Well, Avery’s got an answer. Two, actually. First, we have little to no control and are just living within society’s expectations. Avery explains that this is best demonstrated when a day goes exactly as expected, making you feel that you don’t control your life. The issue with being in this headspace, Avery describes, is that you attribute everything to a power other than your own. In essence, you stop taking responsibility. The second way to look at it is that “we have absolute control, and everything is up to us.” To ground this idea, she proposes that you could always keep walking instead of stopping at your destination. You could make every decision a conscious one and control all aspects of your life. Although we theoretically have control over our decisions, we often form mental blocks that keep us, for example, from cutting class or going off the grid. The answer to this question seems to lie somewhere in between: we aren’t completely helpless in controlling our own fate, but societal norms hold us back from making, well, unconventional decisions.
4. Cycles Nature helps us contextualize many big, scary ideas. After all, there’s nothing horrifying about a pebble. I think. In all seriousness, though, some natural elements do mirror real life, like a leaf. “Leaves start off young and healthy,” explains Avery, “and then, in the fall, they grow older and retire from their job of making food for the tree. With this free time, they find a new appreciation for life, and in seeing their friends revel in their free time, too, they can really relax and enjoy autumn’s vibrant hues. Winter comes along, and they let themselves go. Other leaves and animals can appreciate its beauty, and, eventually, they return back to the forest when the forest floor decomposes.” We are these leaves! Live your life vibrantly, but when it comes time to fall off the tree, don’t panic; it’s a part of the cycle.
In a more literal sense, Avery likes to go to the Acton Arboretum to appreciate natural beauty. She really likes the integration of benches into nature-dense areas, and “sometimes, [she’ll] just sit on those benches and sit or read. It has the same quiet atmosphere as the library.” This is just another way to add some variety to your life, and, as put by The Comfort Book, “The key to understanding reality is to lose yourself in it.”
5. Media recommendations
All good thinkers draw their inspiration from somewhere; Avery shares some of her current favorites, starting off with books. As quoted several times already, The Comfort Book is a wonderful read when you’re in need of a warm hug. Fabrice Midal’s The Three Minute Philosopher also offers great nuggets of philosophy for everyday use. Avery also appreciates listening to podcasts; she enjoys Hidden Brain for when she wants to further her understanding of psychology and Heavyweight for when she’s looking for tear-jerking spoken prose. Her final recommendation for this article is Billy Joel’s “Vienna,” a song with soulful lyrics that’ll touch even the most impenetrable of hearts.
We hope this reading has inspired you to ask those close to you what is going on inside their heads. Avery and I wish you the best vibes for this coming year, and, in her words: “Keep your brain nice and positive!”