By Amelia Marie Zaldivar
Rain is not beautiful to me. It is an irremovable pall over everything good, and I don’t think I could ever understand why people love it so much. As a lifetime resident of multiple regions of Southern California, I have grown up accustomed to many types of climates, from the mild inner city weather, to the hot and frigid extremes of the high and low deserts, and to the always-enjoyable life by the coast. In the Mojave Desert, we had both snow and heat advisories, in the suburbs of Orange County, we 60 degree winters and 90 degree summers, rarely varying throughout the year, and in Manhattan Beach, the temperature never strayed from 70-80 degrees and the sun shone for three hundred days a year. However, none of these areas ever really experienced rain. Los Angeles itself is naturally all a desert, with its entire modern population unable to survive on its own water supply; rather, it drains the Colorado River and empties the lakes of the San Joaquin Valley. Thus, the concept of “rainy days” is a rarity and somewhat foreign. Anticipating the move to the Bay in the fall of 2013, I knew to expect rain and colder weather and to say goodbye to the ninety-plus degree days I love so much.
When the sky starts to turn grey, and the air becomes ominously still, while waiting for the charging droplets of water to come crashing toward the ground, I begin to dread being awake. I look out the window and wish for the sun to brighten the sky. I want for nothing more than the puddles to dry up and for everyone to take off their hoods and bask in the light. This was my exact reaction on a particular Saturday morning in September, when I leaned over the edge of my loft bed and saw only grey skies beyond the window pane. Watching pedestrians from my fourth-story dorm window here in Berkeley as they walked quickly up the sidewalk, hiding beneath umbrellas and hooded jackets, passing one another with no acknowledgement, and seeing cars with darkened rolled up windows zoom by throwing dirty water everywhere, further reinforced my desire for the sun to show its face.
I wish people would talk to one another, walk down the street and wave, say hello, or just offer a smile, and in the rain, that’s not possible. Everyone walks with their head down, wanting to get out of the way of the tears of the gods.
Similar to a land with a perpetually rainy climate, where people walk around under umbrellas and pulled hoods: protective shells operating to separate themselves from both the watery sky as well as the other people around them, in today’s world, we as humans have become self-absorbed, living in glass boxes, looking around only to see more of ourselves. Modern behavior is filled with an ignorance of humanity and commonality. We only see the world as it affects us, turning a blind eye to anything that doesn’t directly affect our person. Conditioned within us since we were kids playing in puddles admiring our reflections, this unwillingness to see beyond ourselves is an idea that is largely related to the human experience as a whole. However, the American society in particular consists of a large mass of people only interested in themselves as singular persons, creating a culture of seclusion which not only separates us from one another, but also from the rest of the world. We, as Americans, ignore anything that is happening outside the neat borders of our fifty great states.
This is an idea present especially in media and the way we view the outside world. Americans, a largely separatist group of individuals, are often blinded from the tragedies of lands beyond our borders. Miley Cyrus’s VMA performance caught more headlining attention than did the mass killings in Syria; Julliane Moore’s new hair color sparked more controversy than the election of Australia’s new prime minister; and the release of the new iPhone models overshadowed the massacre at a mall in Kenya.
Selfishness rears its ugly head even in relationships. Oftentimes the greatest identifier of a good friend is “someone who is always there for me,” “someone who is into the same things as me,” or “someone whose company I enjoy.” Even when relating to other people, we are in a constant state of thinking of ourselves and our own best interest. We naturally tend to seek out people who can understand our lives and will listen to our opinions and thoughts. When these criteria are met, we create friendships that are outwardly selfless but that truly stem from self-absorption.
In a similar manner, in the Catholic Church, you are taught from a young age that your religion is really just entering into a close friendship with Jesus. Even then, the selfishness of Americans pervades even through moral and religious boundaries. Close study of antiquities, especially those originating before the reformation, show selfishness and self-interest even in prayer. People used to carry around prayer booklets, and through careful study and modern science, it can be concluded that the pages most worn and touched were the pages which contain information about a person’s patron saint or prayers for personal safety and wellbeing. Moving into more present times, this sort of selfishness can be seen through the collective apathy toward the classical praying of the rosary. The rosary is a prayer set guided by a string of beads, each representing a prayer to be said. Praying the rosary usually takes anywhere from fifteen to thirty minutes, and praying the full pilgrimage rosary takes upwards of two hours. The rosary within itself is a prayer to be offered up to the Virgin Mary while reflecting upon the sufferings and mysteries of the life of Christ. Thus, when praying the rosary, there is little room for thoughts of the self. Many Catholics today don’t pray the rosary because they see it as being “too long, too boring, or repetitive.” As a result, while a large majority of practicing Catholics own rosaries, they often leave them hanging on walls and rearview mirrors, untouched and pristine, while they go about their daily lives, praying only for themselves, if at all.
While Berkeley, a natural forest nestled between hills sitting beside the San Francisco Bay, receives more rain that I could ever be absolutely comfortable with, it’s going to be home for the next four years. The most I can do within that time is hope to achieve a sense of my own self-absorption and work towards walking with open eyes and an open mind, hoping the falling water and the thick grey sky doesn’t block my view. Because until we can all realize our own selfishness, may God let the rain continue to pour as we walk with hoodie-covered heads bowed.
Amelia is a first year undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley in the College of Letters & Sciences. A self-proclaimed “student of life,” she spends her days learning from everything around her in a constant search for the truths of the world and the Great Beyond.