200 words about a setback I've overcome? May I suggest an alternative? How about the topic my tenth-grade English teacher assigned to test what we'd do with an impossible topic: "Do you think the world has become better or worse? Explain." Now that I had fun with...
Dickens said, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” The thing is, he knew what time he was talking about. I don’t. When one asks if the world has changed for the better or for the worse, I just don’t know what to think. Several million years is really rather a long time to evaluate, you see. And that’s not even getting into the real problems! Better for whom? In what context!? The world. The whole world! Earth! That’s an entire planet! Where to begin…
Let’s start with “better.” What do we mean by better? Better for…me? Better for the yak herders of the Mongolian steppes? Better for the Hobbits, who are now all in hiding from the Big People? It’s obviously not better for the Nazis! Or better for humanity? Can we really rule out the Eskimos simply because the rest of us now have cell phones? And once we’ve figured that out, how much better is better?
What constitutes the betterment of this very large world? Is it a better place now because there are artificial sweeteners? Maybe. How about because of sliced bread, that much-referred-to blessing? Sure! Lack of 70s hairstyles? Yes. Definitely better. Mandatory public education? Mmm, debatable. Who was this supposed to be better for again? I’m sure we could argue that the hanger has made the world a better place. And the Oxford comma. And those handy little white-out tapes. “Control-Z”. And the letter ‘j’. But of course, ‘j’ has been around for quite a while. Which brings us to the next question.
Time. Wrinkles or not, there’s certainly been a lot of it since the Earth was a ball of lava, dust, and toxic fumes. Has the world become better since, say, King Tyrannosaurus Rex IV? Being human, I would have to say yes. What about since King Henry VIII? Let’s see. Flushing toilets. Power tools. Chalkboards. Once again, I’m going to have to say yes. Since the 70s? Yes. We’ve been over this. The world is undeniably a better place without the 70s. And really, McDonald’s made everything better, right? Since the 90s? Well, there was no musical called Wicked then, and that certainly was a change for the better. Since last November? And here we encounter a little snag.
How much “better” does there have to be to cancel out all the “worse?” I’m positive we could find a following for the argument that Play station 76 more than makes up for the general debauchery of the world. And the fact that we no longer wear big silver buckles on our shoes could probably counter not being able to open your locker because there are no lights on in the hall. Monty Python’s good. But is it good enough to cancel out 40,000,000 cows and their collective methane gas emissions? Can Chuck-a-Rama’s deep-roasted turkey breast outweigh rap music?
Finally, if we can say that the world is better now, what does it mean for the future? Will things continue to be “better?” Or are we on course for a whole bunch more “worse?” Yes, we’ve eradicated Polio, but we still sell Velveeta across the country. Will email succeed in eliminating the U.S. Postal Service? And, perhaps most worrisome of all: just how long can a few Shire-folk and their friends hold back the tide of sparkly vampires in silver Volvos?
Ah, those were the days. Now back to my application.