Real Recognize Real

Sophomore Aidan O'Neill digs into the deeper meaning of the passing "Hello, how are you?" and ensuing "Pretty good" response.

One of the best parts about Santa Clara is the walk between classes. Sunshine bathing the cobblestoned walkways, the 18th century Spanish mission architecture set against a perfectly blue sky, and the palm trees swaying slightly in the breeze all make for a nice break between accounting and Spanish. But it's the personal touch that really makes it. Our school is big enough so that we meet more new people than we could ever remember the names of, and small enough so that we see them every day. We rarely wear headphones because an average walk from Kenna to Lucas will often include hearing ten different variations of "Howzitgoin?" Though the constant interaction is uplifting and positive, with approximately four seconds allotted for each one, they never exactly breach the surface. I would not be the first to suggest that when we reply that we are "Pretty good," this is not always the most accurate answer. Even if we are at Santa Clara.

This begs the question, then why do we always say it? It's because we either know or believe we know that the other person does not want to hear anything else. "Just awful" would certainly be an uncomfortable note to end a four second conversation with, and even "Amazing!" begs further questioning, which certainly requires far too much effort when Casa is still a long walk away. The forced nature of greetings sometimes goes so far that we do not actually listen to what the other person is saying, instead inserting our expectations into the blank, eliminating the need to process their words. I know I am not the only one who was replied to "How are you?" with "Not much."

While this may seem a mere social construct built around pleasantry and manners, the same practice applies to other aspects of our lives. We can easily put up the same convenient wall of "Pretty good" when it comes to faith as well. Not with passersby, but with ourselves. I have found it far too easy to gloss over the truth for the sake of convenience and comfort.

Faith can become a mere ritual just as easily as saying hi to a friend can become an automated exchange of words. We can read the Bible and learn, but no more than if it were a textbook. We can go to church and be uplifted by the sermon, but remain unmoved. We can volunteer at a food kitchen, but the sense of humility passes as soon as we have fed ourselves.

We lose this sense of purpose not because of what we do, but why we do it. When the world offers so many options for fulfillment: whether it be professional, academic, or social success, material possessions, or your favorite team winning a championship, these worldly desires crowd up our heart. They harden it with extra layers until we can no longer be vulnerable to an experience with God. This issue is a difficult one to deal with because it cannot be recognized solely from one's action, but only by looking at the heart.

Faith is a daily act of remembering what really matters. So much of our worldly lives are occupied by maintaining our appearance, having superficial conversations, completing mindless rituals, walking or driving from one place to another, or purposefully distracting ourselves for a few minutes with television or Trivia Crack. We do these things because the world often rewards us for jumping through hoops. Naturally, our spirit becomes weary and our hearts hard.

But when we pray, really pray, we cut through all the facades. For me, when I remember that God's kingdom is what is permanent and true and my worldly goals are temporary and ultimately hollow, it gives me hope. Each person I see may be trapped in routines and superficial goals, but we all have a soul that yearns for something more as well. And that's usually enough to give someone a genuine "Hello" on my walk to class.