Monday, April 05, 2010

Essay contests

When I was a senior high to university student, I used to enter essay contests and win prizes. When I was 15, I won a trip to Canada. I went to Hawaii for an essay prize at the age of 18.

When I was at the University, Japan was in the middle of the "bubble economy". I did not benefit directly from the frivolous festivities that went on nightly in the clubs and restaurants in Tokyo (at these times my life was really modest, simple, and without excitement, just concentrating on physics). However, I did get some bonuses by winning prize money in essay contests held by corporations and organizations with fat purses. I used the money to go to operas, kabuki plays, and concerts. Thus, I used the essay winnings to cultivate my knowledge and sensitivities. To this day, I think that was a very good investment.

I remember one particular essay contest well. In the essay, I argued that our society needed a project to inspire people for something beyond the realm of the daily experiences. Without such an enterprise, human spirituality would suffocate. After warning against a danger of the closing of the human mind in the modern society, I argued that one of the best projects would be SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence).

My essay won the first prize. I was twenty-something then. (Needless to say, all these essays were written in Japanese. I am yet to win my first English essay contest.)

At the prize ceremony, one of the judges said very nice things about my prose. He was a famous critic. He said that "Mr. Mogi writes with fire. His style shows much promises". I was pleasantly flattered. His words were music to my ears. But then he went on to say that "the argument was very well, until Mr. Mogi came to the last part, arguing for the necessity for SETI. I wonder if the project provides an appropriate ending to this essay."

Thus, at the very end, I was discouraged. The judges all nodded in agreement with the critic. Apparently, they did not think that SETI was a proper subject to be discussed in respectable social contexts. Not like building an arts theatre or promoting a sports event.

At that very moment, I think, a theme that continues to run in my life even today emerged. I might be able to come to (or appear to come to) an agreement with the society in general on the surface, but when it comes to things that really matter, I am rarely in agreement with the comfortable mainstream.

I partially regret the situation. Had I been more conformant, I would have led an easier life. But then it would not have been as fun.


Anonymous said...

People who do great things in moving society forward do not comfortably fit into society. Feeling like an outsider because of ones unique way of thinking is something that I deal with daily. But I would not trade my uniqueness for being the norm because it gives me great freedom to do anything. In our world of status-quo thinking and rules, being an outlier allows one to create their own rules thus changing the game of life.

(ma)gog said...

I wish I could have had the opportunity to read your prize winning essays when I was still a student back in early '80's.

Your argument must have been welcomed with enthusiasm by our generation.

We should seriously investigate more about Extraterrestial Intelligence, because if they exsit and have been already visiting us, the fact itself proves that they have the technology which enables matter travel at higher speed than light or warp through dimensions, which is beyond human knowledge(at this moment).

It is just exciting to realize that there are still lots of mysteries around us.

There are still lots of things to learn, things to investigate, things to solve, things to appreciate, things to hope for, and things to live for.

Anonymous said...

You partially regret the situation?
sweet essay.

and Ms/Mr. Anonymous:
life is a game ..?
life is like a game of cards?

.. the hand that is dealt you is determinism and the way you play it is free will ..

critical comment.

Yuzu said...

Dear: Mr.Mogi
I'm sorry how much I understand of your thought.
I always listen to your voice and feel. Please write your passional essay,please.