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NCC Students Examine The Good Life

Five students gave their interpretations, inspired by this year's NEH theme

by Myra Saturen,

Throughout the fall semester, Northampton Community College students, faculty, staff, and community members have paused to ponder engaging Nicole Cruts, Stacey-Ann Downes, Cara McClintock-Walsh, Jazmin Slaughter, Audrey Henderasah, Samantha Vincentquestions about life, the world and their place in it, inspired by this year's National Endowment for the Humanities theme, The Good Life

This subject has been incorporated into many classes across disciplines.  On November 19, five students gave their interpretations of The Good Life through papers they had written. 

To Nicole Cruts (English II), Seamus Heaney's poem Digging is the "living definition of a good life."  She read the piece aloud and analyzed its meaning for her: that people find happiness in following their own dreams rather than the expectations of others.  Happiness for each person can only be defined by the individual seeking it.  It can also mean giving pleasure to others, as Heaney does with his poems. 

Stacey-Ann Downes (English II) used the science fiction novel Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel to view technology's connection to The Good Life.  In the book, technology created to improve life vanishes from the earth.  Without electricity, social media, airplanes, movies, and pharmacology, the characters have to find ways to survive.  This imperative brings people together in loving, cooperative relationships:  a much harder life, but in some ways a more satisfying one. 

Audrey Hendarsah (philosophy) pictured life as a merry-go-round, never staying in one place for long.  She based her talk on Plato's ideal of desires, beliefs and actions existing in harmony.  For her, this equation is a paradox: she would be happy if she could be herself and be accepted by others, but realizes that the world is imperfect.  "There is no perfect happiness," she said, "but if you expand your definition of happiness," you'll find joy more often.

After hearing many friends express unhappiness, Samantha Vincent (English I) sought the reason behind this discontentment.  She found a consistent answer: stress.  She thought about what eases stress for her-engaging in art.  She plans to be an art therapist to help others achieve a more tranquil life. 

Jazmin Slaughter (English I) believes that a good life is subjective and complex.  She looked at poverty, a condition that she says is complex and needs to be addressed.  Examining three kinds of poverty-homelessness, working class struggles and urban want -- she noticed that people tend to make the best of their circumstances.   Happiness, she said can reside in what is inside one rather than what one possesses.  "Happiness is to love and be loved," she said.  Happiness is also about experiences and opportunity, such as the chance to obtain an education. 

 On November 17, students at the Monroe Campus shared their interpretations of The Good Life at a symposium held there. The symposiums are the concluding events for The Good Life for the semester.  More events are planned for the spring semester.