By some divine coincidence, we’ve all somehow landed ourselves here in Morningside Heights together. Each of us, once belonging to vastly different worlds, has come to inhabit the same space just a few weeks ago hurling snowballs at each other and now sharing the same anxieties about midterms. But sometimes even the best of friends forget that, even though we share many of the same concerns and inside jokes in the present, every one of us brings our own bizarre pasts to this equally bizarre institution called college. In the pluralistic society in which we live, we remember always to tread cautiously, using politically sensitive language towards others and generally playing nice. But rarely do we attempt to understand each other’s individual pasts in their gritty detail—and that’s not even to speak of our own.
In our cover story (p. 7), Andrew Choufrine explores his unusual personal history and attempts to do the one thing that we all struggle to do ourselves—map a genealogy of our political beliefs. Andrew, a beneficiary of housing subsidies as a child, finds himself opposing the very policy that has helped him become the privileged Columbia student he is today. He tries to reconcile these two truths the best he can.
As we reflect back, each of us, like Andrew, will find that our personal trajectories do not follow a comprehensible path. Still, we attempt—a bit pathetically, and maybe a bit valiantly—to connect the dots so that we might make sense of ourselves. In some respects, attempting to construct a neat, narrative arc to our personal myth is possibly just another form of intellectual masturbation, but I wonder if it might serve some purpose other than to indulge our narcissism. Maybe trying to understand ourselves endows us with the ability to defend the beliefs we hold so dear, knowing that we aren’t perfect.